Breast Cancer Radiation Treatment
Facts About Breast Cancer
Role of Radiation Treatment in Breast Cancer
Breast-Conserving Therapy
Partial Breast Irradiation
Radiation Treatment after Mastectomy
Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in American women, according to the American Cancer Society.

Each year, nearly 216,000 women and 1,500 men learn they have invasive breast cancer.

Another 59,000 women learn they have a noninvasive breast cancer, also called carcinoma in situ.

Many women receive radiation therapy as an important part of their treatment for breast cancer.

To learn more about breast cancer, you can go to links we provide to other helpful websites.
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Breast cancer is primarily treated with surgery. After surgery, radiation treatments are used to prevent the tumor from coming back, even though tumor cells may not be visible to your doctors. The benefits of radiation therapy depend upon the particular features of your tumor found at surgery, other facets of your medical history, and your preferences about treatment. You may see a radiation oncologist before surgery, but most decisions are not finalized about radiation treatment postoperatively to give your doctor more information about how helpful it may be for you.
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As recently as the 1970s, women diagnosed with breast cancer had only one standard treatment option: a mastectomy, or surgical removal of the entire breast. Clinical trials have demonstrated that many women can have a breast-conserving surgery removing the tumor and radiation therapy with equal effectiveness compared to mastectomy. Both your surgeon and radiation oncologist will work together with you to determine whether this approach is right for you. Breast-conserving surgery is not suitable for everyone, but radiation therapy allows many women to undergo less surgery without compromising the chance of successfully treating breast cancer.

Painless radiation treatments are delivered in a series of daily sessions, Monday through Friday, for five to seven weeks. Each treatment usually lasts less than 5 minutes but your appointment time is 15-30 minutes each day. While these treatments are often performed in a hospital, external beam radiation therapy is primarily an outpatient treatment scheduled as conveniently as possible to fit into your daily schedule.

Radiation therapy can be used to treat the breast and sometimes the lymph nodes.

3-dimensional conformal radiotherapy (3D-CRT) combines multiple radiation treatment fields to deliver very precise doses of radiation to the breast and spare surrounding normal tissue.

Side effects might include skin irritation, like a mild to moderate sunburn, mild to moderate breast swelling and fatigue. However, the likelihood of these symptoms depend upon of many factors that your doctor will discuss with you at the time of your visit.
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The standard approach after breast conserving surgery is to use external beam radiation therapy to treat the whole breast for daily sessions, Monday through Friday for five to seven weeks. Currently, there is increasing interest in partial breast irradiation to spare more normal tissue and shorten the length of treatment. For certain women, it may be an option to consider treatment twice a day for ten treatments in five days. Clinical trials are currently underway to determine whether this innovative approach is equally effective as whole breast radiation therapy. Talk with your surgeon and radiation oncologist about whether this treatment may be an option for you.
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In cases where the breast is surgically removed, there may some benefit to postoperative radiation treatments for the chest wall and/or nearby lymph node areas. Whether or not radiation treatment should be used after removal of the breast depends on several factors, and many women may not need radiation therapy at all after a mastectomy. After surgery, your surgeon and radiation oncologist can give you a better sense of whether post-mastectomy radiation therapy would be helpful for you.
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